“I am more interested in the evocative qualities in the landscape than the narrative. Once I find a potential subject I’ll then ask the more formal questions about contrast, space, light, atmosphere and design.
How will it become a painting?”
- Jeffrey Reed
Jeffrey Reed always finds inspiration in his surroundings. Returning to Ireland this past summer for another month-long visit to the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Reed continued to be fascinated by the unique landscape and the dramatic changes of weather along the west coast of Ireland. Half the paintings in the current exhibit, derive from this annual trip where what has become familiar is combined with the daily surprise of the new. But Reed also looks to his immediate environs for subject matter – Philadelphia, Lancaster, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and Maine provide just as rich a source.
The small scale of Reed’s canvases are in striking contrast to the artist’s ability to convey the drama and vastness of his subject matter. The intimacy draws the individual viewer into the painting, allowing one to experience part of the process by which the painting is made. Dedicated to the concept of en plein air, Reed’s choice of scale enhances the immediacy of his response to constantly changing environments. Color, basic forms, and the light from a situation can be recorded as a direct experience. Later, when the artist takes his works into the studio, the painting and its subject are separated and Reed looks at his paintings and engages them on their own individual merits as works of art.
"There is a certain kind of poetry created when light and atmosphere are combined with the shapes and colors of a place. I continue to find inspiration in the landscape I look for the uniqueness of a day or time and hope that in my response I can evoke something of that experience."
- Jeffrey Reed
Reed cultivates quiet connection to the world through his observational paintings of the Pennsylvanian and Irish landscapes. He paints vistas of fields, farms, and gardens with houses and barns nestled and embedded in the countryside which have been cultivated. Bathed in light of the sun and the shade of nomadic clouds, his paintings reveal how we live with the landscape, how we build in beautiful places, and reveal ways in which utility and beauty may coexist.
In choosing to create at the scale of the handheld, Reed sets aside the grand gesture of competing with nature in favor of a painting which invites deep connection and personal intimacy. Through pragmatism and poetry, essential qualities of Irish and Pennsylvanian cultures, Reed’s paintings beckon attention through understatement and capture subtle qualities of a place available only to those willing to return season after season.
Jeffrey Reed continues to return to the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, in County Mayo Ireland, to paint for a month each summer. Working on the west coast of Ireland, with the dramatic changes of weather and coastal landscape, there is always the familiar combined with the surprise of the new. The new light, the new atmosphere and the new experience are always right outside the door.
Working en plein air is important to Reed. Years ago, he tried painting indirectly from his subject matter - working in his studio from small studies, drawings, and photographs. This questioning and experimentation in his process clarified and strengthened Reed's commitment to the value of direct observation. Later, once he has been able to establish what was necessary to observe on-site - the color, basic forms, and the light from a situation - the artist takes his works into the studio. It is in the studio where the painting and its subject are separated; where Reed looks at his paintings and engages them on their own individual merits as works of art.
Reed received his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, studied at the Skowhegan School of Art, and received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Jeffrey Reed lives in Pennsylvania where he is an Associate Professor at the Community College of Philadelphia and the Head of the Art Department. Each summer he paints and teaches the Western coast of Ireland at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation. Reed has been represented by Gross McCleaf for more than 25 years, and has shown his paintings in Philadelphia, New York, throughout the East Coast, and in Ireland.
By Larry Groff
Larry Groff: Can you tell us something about your background? What were your early years like as a painter and how did you become a landscape painter? Who have been important influences for you?
Jeffrey Reed: I grew up outside of Annapolis Maryland on the Magothy River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. All of my interests seemed to be centered around the outdoors, either on or near the water. It is where I looked for the pulse of the day and felt most alive and connected to the world. I developed an interest in drawing and painting at an early age and it seemed natural to paint the landscape as a subject.